Putting on the Dog
Rufio Ricardo Dunlap is the best-dressed pooch in town.
There’s a bit of a celebrity that’s been hitting Main Street during the Friday night car shows. People know him by name, whisper in hushed and slightly reverent voices about him, and vie to have their photos taken with him.
He’s not a politician or a movie star, not an entertainer in the traditional sense of the word. The icon, who is typically dressed in dramatic costumes, is in fact a publicity hound in the truest sense of the word. Rufio Ricardo Dunlap from Plainfield is a 145-pound-and-growing Neapolitan Mastiff who causes an uproar wherever he goes.
“He’s a big drooly mass of wrinkles,” said his “mother,” Kathy Dunlap of Plainfield. “We went to a dog show and fell in love with the breed,” Dunla said. “I like unusual things and he is a very unusual dog.”
Dunlap said she and her husband, Rick, did not buy Rufio to show or to breed. “We just wanted him as a pet.” She soon determined that people loved to snap his picture, and that he in turn loved to pose.
“He stays really still. Just the tip of his tail moves,” she said. Dunlap first dressed him in costume for a canine boat cruise, when he was a “tiny” puppy weighing in at only 24 pounds. “He wore a pirate costume,” she said.
Dunlap subsequently entered him in Hallmark greeting card contests, and he was selected for two. The cards are now carried on hallmark.com, and will be in stores in the future. “I enter him in every costume I can.” Proceeds from Rufio’s winnings are used to support animal rescue organizations.
Additionally, the Dunlaps design, print and market their own line of greeting cards and T-shirts of Rufio. He’s been featured in newspaper articles and has appeared on television. “We’re now working to get him into print work and commercials. We’re trying to find an agent,” Dunlap.
Rufio has a wardrobe that would make a fashionista envious, with more than 30 costumes. “I make most of his clothes and alter human things to fit him," Dunlap said. "He wore my husband’s $800 suit, but he’s too big in the chest now.”
Rufio is especially fond of hats," Dunlap said. "We put them on him and he stops and looks at us like he’s saying, ‘look how handsome I am.’ He just loves hats.”
While Rufio hangs around the house naked, when he goes out in public, he’s dressed to the nines. Dunlap said that Rufio is “protective, loving, lazy and well-mannered. He’s very drooling.”
Rufio recently learned he was able to swim. “I keep catching him in the pool swimming laps. He doesn’t know that he’s a dog,” Dunlap said.
She sleeps with Rufio in a downstairs bedroom while his “sister,” a Harlequin Great Dane named Sugar Joy, sleeps with her husband upstairs. “There’s not room for all four of us in one bed,” Dunlap said. “Rufio snores like a freight train. It irritates my husband that I only think snoring is cute when Rufio does it.”
Dunlap said that Rufio’s celebrity and popularity has taken off. “People yell his name out their car windows. Kids love him. Last week a little kid tried to ride him. He just loves kids,” she said.
“We bought a pet and now have a celebrity.”
For additional information visit www.rufiosrumblings.com